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Carrfields  » New Zealand Natural Fibres Awarded Second R&D Funding Grant
Dec 2021
New Zealand Natural Fibres Awarded Second R&D Funding Grant

New Zealand Natural Fibres (NZNF), a pioneering company working to realise the immense potential natural materials have to change the world, has been awarded its second research and development grant from the New Zealand Government.

The Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) grant, administered by the Ministry for Primary Industries, supports projects which aim to deliver long-term environmental, social, economic and cultural outcomes. The grant amounts to $3.2m over five years.

NZNF plans to use the funding to develop its hemp growing, processing and marketing capability to “go further, faster” towards taking a global leadership position in the development of industrial and consumer products made from hemp fibre, says CEO Colin McKenzie.

“We are very pleased to have received further government backing to continue our work with hemp fibre, which has huge potential to be part of the solution to some of the most crucial environmental challenges facing our planet today.”

Steve Penno, MPI’s director of investment programmes, says NZNF’s project aligns well with Fit for a Better World, the government’s food and fibre sector roadmap guiding New Zealand’s export-led recovery from COVID-19.

“SFF Futures is a key part of our drive to offer transformational opportunities to boost the contribution of the primary sector and lead the way to a more sustainable economy. This project aims to do just that – by showcasing Kiwi innovation at its best. It promises to add considerable value to our hemp fibre industry, and potentially to our local and national economies.”

McKenzie says NZNF will use the grant to develop its activities across four separate workstreams over the next five years:

  • hemp plant genetics, including sourcing and developing new varieties
  • on-farm production and agronomic development
  • product development and innovation
  • market & business development, including identifying and targeting new customers and sales channels.

“We are the only hemp fibre company in New Zealand which controls its own supply chain end-to-end, from seed to sales & marketing of our proprietary products made from hemp fibre which we have processed at our own facility. This puts us in a unique position to scale up our operations and establish a place at the forefront of hemp fibre innovation globally.”

NZNF is in the unique position of being able to leverage the capabilities of New Zealand agribusiness company Carrfields, which co-owns NZNF with partner Hemp NZ. Carrfields has well-established existing business divisions covering key parts of NZNF’s supply chain, including seed, agronomy and harvest machinery.

In addition, NZNF’s existing yarn business (formerly known as NZ Yarn, a subsidiary of Carrfields Primary Wool), has a broad international customer base including soft flooring manufacturers, which provides a strong existing market for NZNF. The latest SFF Futures grant means NZNF is now poised to invest in growing its operations across each of the four workstreams which the company identified as crucial to achieving its goals, says McKenzie.

“We are extremely excited to have received government backing to invest in the development of hemp fibre-based products, as well as products made from blended wool and hemp fibres for consumer and industrial markets in New Zealand and overseas.”

The SFF Futures grant follows NZNF’s initial grant, which enabled the company to develop sustainable technology and processes to produce fit-for-purpose hemp fibre from harvested stems, without the use of chemicals.

This project is now complete, enabling a totally new industry in New Zealand, McKenzie says.

“We are very positive about the future of New Zealand wool and hemp fibre products worldwide. Our latest SFF Futures grant paves the way for the development of an extensive portfolio of new product innovation.”

Among the possible product applications, NZNF is exploring are hemp fibre and wool yarn blends for use in soft flooring and performance outdoor activewear. Non-woven products are also being developed and tested; including a natural hemp fibre-based material that could replace single-use plastic food packaging, as well as a hemp fibre replacement for synthetic geotextiles which are used to stabilise soil in infrastructure works.

In the future, NZNF also plans to look at how hemp fibre could be used to produce a natural replacement for carbon composites, packaging and building materials, as well as in many other industrial applications.

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